One of York County’s current charms is its vast array of casual dining chain restaurants – there are so many options to choose from and, just this year, a number of new restaurants opened, highlighted by the new shopping center off of Route 24. Mexican – we have it. Chinese – you bet. American – of course. We even have Japanese, Indian, and other specialties, as well as some fine dining establishments (with more on the way downtown).
Back in the Civil War era, York County also had a number of casual dining houses (no Denny’s however!). Many rural crossroads boasted small taverns, usually brick or wooden frame houses with a bar, small restaurant area, and a few guest rooms for the weary traveller. Not having the luxury of daily delivery by distribution companies, many of these out-of-the-way taverns relied heavily on large storehouses of food, supplies, and liquor, as well as their small gardens for fresh vegetables. The loss of these provisions was an economic disaster to many of these establishments.
As one travels York County, there are many of these former taverns that still exist as private homes today. I will cover a few of them in the next year here in Cannonball. For now, here’s one story of an unidentified tavern owner who had a bad day when Rebs came calling at his restaurant.
Near one unnamed York County town, the proprietor of a well-stocked country tavern, to his dismay, watched as ravenous Confederates devoured his entire stock of bacon, beef and poultry. They forced his wife to use up all of his remaining flour to bake them bread and pies. Soldiers took all of his forage for their horses, and many catnapped on his beds. Perhaps most annoying to the innkeeper, his inventory of 10-12 barrels of liquor had been reduced to a few mere pints remaining as the unwelcome guests finally took their leave, hauling away what alcohol they had not guzzled.
A colonel, perhaps with a tinge of guilt for all the food and drink the men had consumed, loudly stated that it was a pity that no one else had offered to the distraught hotel owner any compensation for his loss. He stepped to the bar and laid down a Confederate 20-dollar bank note, looking around at his comrades as he intoned, “There, my good fellow, take that as my share of our indebtedness.” The quizzical proprietor, in a thick German accent, inquired, “Vot kind of monish is dat?” to which the officer calmly replied, “That, Sir, is a greyback; in other words, a note of the Confederate States of America.”
“O stranger,” retorted the vexed saloonkeeper, “if you hash not got no petter monish dan dat, you’ll better keeps it. I don’t vont none of it; it is good for nix; no petter dan plank paper!
“Sir,” rejoined the somewhat indignant officer, “I advise you to take it and be glad for the opportunity. You will soon find that it is the best money in the world. Keep it, Sir, keep it, by all means.”
“Nein, nein,” shot back the persistent innkeeper, “dat monish will never be wort anything here nor anywhere. I would not give von silver thaler for a breadbasket full. I von’t be seen mit it in my hand; and if you don’t take it along, I rolls it up, holds it at the candle, un lites my pipe mit it.” The Rebel quickly snatched up the banknote and returned it to his wallet before leaving.